THREE Clare Fianna Fáil Councillors Alan O’Callaghan and Tony O’Brien have broken ranks with the party by publicly backing a no vote against the proposed Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party coalition.
Another party colleague, Councillor Pat O’Gorman is “edging towards a no vote” before ballot papers are sent out to about 750 members of the local Comhairle Dáil Ceanntair, who must return it before the deadline of June 25.
Councillor O’Callaghan has also been appointed as one of the spokespersons for a new national campaign called “Fairer Future”, which is encouraging other FF members to vote against entering into government with Fine Gael.
Describing itself as a “grassroots campaign of proud FF members”, this group contains more than 50 councillors from 14 counties who are actively campaigning with hundreds of other party members to defeat the new Programme for Government (PfG) negotiated by the three parties.
In an interview with the Clare Champion, Councillor O’Callaghan stated that he felt a national government of all the main parties to take tough decisions to revitalise the economy and avoid making “martyrs” out of opposition parties like Sinn Féin.
The Kilmurry-based publican claimed a lot of the Programme for Government was “wishy washy” and “based on sand”.
He said the Fairer Future campaign is attracting huge support and noted a lot of grassroots members are supporting his position.
He described a requirement to have the ballot paper witnessed as “bizarre”. “If you can’t trust someone in your own party to put their name on a ballot sheet, I think it is ridiculous that someone needs to witness that,” he said.
He hopes that members will not vote yes because they are fed up with the delay in forming a new government.
Councillor Pat O’Gorman said if he decides to vote no he will not campaign for this and will let members make up their own mind. He recalled Micheál Martin campaigned before the General Election on a platform for change and has now completed a 100% U-turn.
Councillor Tony O’Brien described described the PfG as “very aspirational” with no costings or measures and lacking commitments about rural development, Shannon Airport and affordable housing in East Clare.
The Killaloe Councillor argued the three parties should have decided to leave the pension age for retirement at 66 in view of the hardship endured by people who had worked hard for more than 40 year through three recessions and interest rates of up to 18% in the nineties.
He said that many people felt the current coalition proposal doesn’t represent the radical change the electorate voted for last February.
Councillor Mark Nestor is also voting no as he believes the PfG is an “insult” to people who are trying to promote the Irish language and the commitment to build 50,000 social houses nationally is too conservative in view of the fact there are more than 1,200 people on the waiting list for a house in Ennis
The remainder of Clare Fianna Fáil Councillors who were surveyed are voting yes.
Councillor P J Kelly described the coalition as the “worst possible government option” as he had favoured a national government or FF, Fine Gael and Independents as a second option.
“I am reluctantly supporting it in the national interest, despite my reservations. The alternative is another General Election, which would only compound our problems,” he said.
Councillor Pat Hayes warned another General Election would be a “disaster” for FF and securing an alternative deal with Sinn Féin may not be a runner with members.
“FF needs to have a good look at itself and if it doesn’t deliver in government the future of the party is under serious threat. If FF doesn’t go into government and remains in opposition for 15 years, it could become insignificant,” he said.
Councillor Clare Colleran-Molloy said a substantial number of FF policies on regional development, social housing and agriculture were contained in the PfG and stressed members had to be pragmatic and put the country first and not Fianna Fáil.
She said if the next government achieves what its set out to achieve the electorate will decide on their fate.
Councillor Pat Daly said the FF leadership made mistakes by excluding Sinn Féin from government formation talks but warned if this deal isn’t supported FF could lose up to 20 seats in an Autumn General Election.
Councillor Joe Killeen said the country needs a functioning, stable balanced government to drive a recovery forward after Covid-19 with the stated aim of the development of rural Ireland at its core.
“I see an emphasis on FF values including social cohesion, job creation, affordable housing, health provision, affordable childcare and support for agriculture as primary objectives of a new government.
“The country need all the talent and ability we can muster to put it back on track to recovery in economic and social terms after Covid-19,” he said.
Councillor Shane Talty and Councillor Pat McMahon stressed the country needs a government to revitalise the economy, despite some misgivings about possible future ramifications for the FF party.